As I did last year, this year, I flew down to Walt Disney World for marathon weekend to hang out with friends, cheer on friends and strangers, and celebrate my birthday.

This cupcake was weirdly filled with sprinkles, and I’m not sure what I think about that.

I got to Disney on Thursday (my birthday) and after I checked in and grabbed lunch, I wandered the parks for a while and went over to check out the race expo. I learned that when you can do whatever you want whenever you want, you can get a lot of rides done in a short period of time. I also took a conference call while waiting in line at the Haunted Mansion because that’s the kind of employee I am.

I wasn’t super impressed by the race expo. I admit, I didn’t bother to go check out the race-specific merchandise because I wasn’t planning to buy anything for a race I wasn’t running. But I just wasn’t impressed as a whole by the rest of the expo. So of course, I didn’t end up buying much of anything. And there was so much less free stuff than previous years! That’s half the fun of an expo!

Because of the course of the 10K, I didn’t go cheer on Friday (and let me tell you, sleeping in was glorious). But Saturday morning, I was out at the Grand Floridian entrance (my standard cheer spot) cheering on every single half marathon runner.

Guys, it was cold out there!

I had some company for part of the cheering, but people had to go get off their feet before the marathon, so I stayed out alone and made friends with the other people cheering. And then I went and had breakfast at the Wave, and went over to Hollywood Studios to ride Slinky Dog. As you do.

Sunday morning, same plan. Up and over to the Grand Floridian to cheer. This time, I had more company.

Yes, I had to get my cowbell in all the pictures.

Hung out at the Grand Floridian and cheered on every runner as they passed, then headed in to grab some quick breakfast before taking the monorail over to Epcot and continue cheering as people left Epcot towards the finish. That’s one of my favorite places to cheer because of the relief you see on people’s faces.

I also got the joy of annoying people with my cowbell. I was standing there, ringing my giant cowbell, when this woman moved a cone blocking the spectators so she could go past me and sit on the edge of a planter. This put her ear not terribly far from my cowbell. Then she proceeded to glare at me and finally got fed up and huffed away. Cowbell wins again!

My forearms were sore for about three days after though. Cowbell arm is no joke.

One common feature of marathon finishers is the various alcoholic beverages people are carrying as they exit the park. However, this year, we saw something new. After the balloon ladies passed, a crew of runDisney staffers came up and started stopping any racers who were carrying alcoholic drinks. They had to finish or toss the drinks – they weren’t allowed to carry them out of the park. Of course, the standard rule is that you can’t bring alcohol out of the park, but all the racers who were within the official time limits didn’t seem to have any issues. Those who were after those limits, however, were stopped. I wonder if this is to encourage people to not stop for drinks if they are behind pace. There’s a general belief that if you make it into Epcot, you’re “safe” and won’t be swept, which is generally true, but at the same time, they do need to get the runners through and finish the race. It will be interesting to see what they do next year.

And of course, I do plan to be back to cheer again next year. This year’s trip was a bit different in that last year, I was injured and wouldn’t have been able to run had I registered. This year, I was in fine form, and I have to admit, I had a little bit of FOMO that I didn’t run. Since next year, the 10K is on my birthday, I think I may have to sign up for the race. I’m certainly not running a marathon, and I’ve enjoyed being able to relax on my training during the crazy that is December, so I think the half is out too. But the 10K? That seems do-able!

By Megan

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